Blog Post

Remote SIM provisioning – In-app eSIM activation vs QR codes

18 May 2021 5 min read

The introduction of eSIM and remote SIM provisioning (RSP) to the consumer segment presented Service Providers (SPs) with an opportunity to fully digitalise their services. RSP allows SPs to program subscriber profiles remotely, removing the need for a physical SIM card to authenticate the service.

We will walk you through the differences between traditional SIM and consumer eSIM activation. Interestingly, even though eSIM hasn’t been around for very long, two distinctive ways of activating eSIM have emerged – via QR codes and in-app. The difference between the two, however, is quite significant and it can make or break the eSIM customer experience.


Traditional SIM card activation 

Traditional SIMs come with certain obstacles and limitations. To acquire a traditional SIM card, the customer has to set up an account (contract or prepaid) with an operator of choice. Then, they must insert the plastic SIM card into their phone to authenticate the service. If, at some point, they decide to change the provider, they will have to remove the first SIM card and insert the new one. There is also a case of customers who, for certain reasons, need or want to use services from more than one provider. In this case, they must swap plastic SIM cards manually, according to their needs. 

It is quite apparent that this option is not the most convenient for the end-user. Working with fiddly cards and walking around with a SIM eject tool aren’t synonyms of a seamless telecom customer experience. And as SIM cards are quite small, it’s easy to lose or misplace them. Getting a replacement SIM requires the help of a customer.


What is remote SIM provisioning?

The emergence of eSIM technology in the consumer market facilitated new ways of SIM activation. Fortunately, there are no such issues as misplaced cards or lost SIM tray pins. In fact, traditional SIM cards are not necessary at all. Users can download eSIM profiles onto the UICC chip that’s soldered inside their device and can accommodate multiple eSIM profiles. To activate the service, the customer has to download the SIM profile of the operator of choice onto their device. Thanks to remote SIM provisioning, they can activate it straight away. There are two ways of doing that.


QR code activation

The first method utilises widely known QR codes. The customer starts a contract with the operator of choice and receives the instruction to activate the service. Below are 3 examples of eSIM activation using QR codes.


    • Three, UK – video – A customer receives a paper voucher with a printed QR code.
    • Circles.Life, Singapore – video – A customer receives an email with a QR code upon plan creation.
    • Vodafone, Qatar – video – A customer generates the QR code in-app and is required to send it to another device.


The QR code contains the address of the remote SIM provisioning system (SM-DP+). It allows the device to connect to that system and securely download a SIM profile. Once the profile is installed and activated, the device can connect to that operator’s network.

In all three examples, however, there is a need for another device to complete the activation process. It is usually a laptop or another phone, or, in Three’s case, a paper voucher to activate the service. Therefore, we wouldn’t call the experience frictionless or intuitive. Nonetheless, it’s a good step forward in a journey to creating a fully digital telecom customer onboarding


In-app eSIM provisioning

Another way of RSM is in-app eSIM activation. It’s quick and straightforward. The user downloads the operators’ mobile app and starts building their subscription plan. Upon completion, they have to activate their eSIM profile, which only takes one tap. After a few seconds, the profile is installed and the customer can start using the service.

How is it done? The Mobile Application has access to the device operating system APIs through which the app passes the SM-DP+ information to the eUICC chip soldered in the device. That ultimately enables the app to activate, delete and manage eSIM profiles on the device seamlessly. 

Mobilise’s latest solution – eSIM as a Service – utilises in-app eSIM activation, making the onboarding experience quick and simple. With this option, there is no need for visual explanation and step-by-step instructions. Below is a video that shows the onboarding experience with in-app eSIM provisioning.


eSIM in the consumer segment is evolving quite quickly. No wonder – it allows operators to completely transform their user experience and better meet customers’ needs and expectations. In this day and age, it’s extremely important as it keeps customers loyal. That, in turn, is conducive to business success. Therefore, when deciding to implement eSIM technology, it is crucial to know different types of remote SIM provisioning.

You might also like

    Our website is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google's Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.